Managing Director and CEO, Sports And Leisure Apparel Limited - Lacoste Licensee in India
Favorite Indian store on the parameters of Visual Merchandising, Interior Design, Windows Display, Lighting, In-store Technology & Engagement Drivers:
While all our Boutiques are engaging, I would like to mention two stores here as my favourites - Linking Road, Mumbai & Mall of India, Noida.
Mall of India: The best part of this store is that it has a beautiful wide façade. Our standard premium concept furniture with brown fixtures helps the customers to have clear visibility of our wide range of products. The Boutique provides easy navigation to the customers. Linking Road: This high street Boutique has a lovely façade with a lawn in the front that gives a leisurely yet luxurious feel to this destination store. Built on our Agora concept furniture, this store is spread across two floors and is also great from visual merchandising perspective.
Favorite global store on the same parameters:
My favourite global Lacoste store is “Champs Elysees” Boutique in Paris. With an area of 400 sqm spread across three levels this store was designed by Christophe Pillet, the famous French designer. One highlight of this store is the Polo wall and Polo Bar that display a wide range of Lacoste Classic Polo. The entire range of Lacoste can be seen in the store with beautifully designed space for all categories for men. Women and kids.
Role of Franchising as a way of expanding a brand’s retail footprint:
In today’s fast changing retail eco system, one has to be present at the right place to tap the target audience. One of the major benefits of running a franchise model is that Franchisees bring an extensive knowledge of their local markets that can help a brand to understand the audience behaviour faster. Second, the Franchisees have a better control in terms of handling the local operations. Therefore, with the help of a Franchisee, a brand can experience ease of operations in day-to-day life while operating in different regions. Third, a brand can speed up its expansion through Franchisee business model.
Important points to be kept in mind in choosing the right franchiser/ franchise:
Working on a mix of Company Owned and Franchisee distribution model can really help in the long run if franchisee partners are selected carefully. One should be extra cautious in choosing the right Franchise partner. While there could be many brand specific parameters, a brand should invest time and energy in prescreening of the prospective Franchisee. In addition, the brand should scrutinise the Franchisee upon the following parameters: Financial Health
Existing Portfolio Industry experience & knowledge Above all, it is extremely important to have a likeminded Franchisee partner, who can understand Brand parameters ad brand DNA and can implement the guidelines without any compromise.
Challenges/shifts in buying behavior in the retail industry:
One of the biggest challenges for the fashion retail industry in India continues to be the nonavailability of the premium retail development at the right cost and right terms. While per square meter cost of occupation in India is almost at par with most other matured markets, per square meter sales and sell through are not as high. The second challenge in the Indian retail sector that has cropped up in the last 3-4 years is perpetual discounting/ promotions. In my view, discounting could be a short-term tactic to attract the customers but long-term strategy is to deliver customer delight through great product at the right prices in the right environment with great customer service.
Different from the Rest:
We are known for our strict clean-cut design codes and aesthetic. We continue to work towards creating a luxurious shopping environment, allowing the quality of product and design to take centerstage. While developing the new products, we innovate for style & freedom of movement. The end customer should get an iconic wardrobe, contemporary & urban, inspired by sport & French elegance. We believe in innovation from the word go. The first innovation that we do is on our products. We start working on our launches more than one year in advance. Every time, a lot of extensive research & effort is put in to developing the new collection. Every 1-2 months, we launch new products to keep the points of sale looking fresh. We also believe in trying out new things; therefore, we keep on collaborating with illustrious designers on a global level to give the best to our customers. Above all, elegance requires clothes that are adapted to the situation or circumstances. Taking customer delight as
our top priority, we take our Customer Service and Visual Merchandising very seriously. A very important part of our overall scheme of things is to ensure consistency. Whether a customer shops in India or Paris or China or US, he gets exactly the same environment and the same merchandise. This helps us in maintaining similar customer experience across the world.
Whether we go in for a high-street or a mall, our locations are chosen very carefully. It has to be a premium environment; even our adjacencies have to be premium. At the same time, we also look at the customer profile in that territory, so that we don’t keep on opening too many doors. We are very selective. Delhi and Mumbai being the most important markets, the brand has much deeper penetration in these markets and intends to expand further. We are keenly watching the premium developments in Tier-i & II cities both in terms of consumer demographics and psychographics and also relevant retail developments. We started entering cities near metros a couple of years back and have received a good consumer response in those cities as well. We are open to exploring store opening at any location in India where likeminded brands are present and quality infrastructure is available.